Does My Employer Have to Give Me Paid Time Off to Vote?

iStock/adamkaz
iStock/adamkaz

The midterm elections are just one day away, but for many working Americans, finding time to hit the polls this Tuesday will be a challenge. As Business Insider points out, some companies are required by law to grant their employees time off to vote, but it depends on which state you live in.

There’s no federal law mandating time off for voters, and Election Day isn't a federal holiday like it is in some countries, including France and Mexico. However, most states have voter-leave laws—otherwise known as time-off-to-vote laws. Paid time off is mandated in 22 states, and unpaid time off is required in seven others. The outlier is Mississippi, which grants employees time off to vote but does not specify whether or not they will be compensated.

Of the states that offer paid time off, most allow employees to leave for two or three hours, which should cover any long lines voters may encounter. Some states stipulate that employees are allowed to leave for “as long as it reasonably takes to vote.” Three of the five most populous states—California, Texas, and New York—offer paid time off. Florida and Pennsylvania, on the other hand, do not offer any time off at all.

The states that offer paid time off include: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

The states that offer unpaid time off are: Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, and Wisconsin.

Of the 20 states that aren’t required to provide any time off, 11 are concentrated along the East Coast. Oregon and Washington technically don’t offer any time off, but they’re vote-by-mail states, so employees shouldn’t need to leave work anyway.

Even if you live in a state that doesn’t have a voter-leave law, you should still check with your employer to see if they will provide time off as a courtesy. According to Mic, nearly 250 companies have declared a company-wide holiday on Election Day or promised their employees paid time off to vote. These include Lyft, Etsy, Pinterest, Dropbox, Levi Strauss & Co., and Change.org, to name a few.

For more detailed information on how long you’re allowed to leave the office for and what you need to know before doing so, check out Business Insider’s article and map (click to enlarge).

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What is a Polar Vortex?

Edward Stojakovic, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Edward Stojakovic, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

If you’ve turned on the news or stepped outside lately, you're familiar with the record-breaking cold that is blanketing a lot of North America. According to The Washington Post, a mass of bone-chilling air over Canada—a polar vortex—split into three parts at the beginning of 2019, and one is making its way to the eastern U.S. Polar vortexes can push frigid air straight from the arctic tundra into more temperate regions. But just what is this weather phenomenon?

How does a polar vortex form?

Polar vortexes are basically arctic hurricanes or cyclones. NASA defines them as “a whirling and persistent large area of low pressure, found typically over both North and South poles.” A winter phenomenon, vortexes develop as the sun sets over the pole and temperatures cool, and occur in the middle and upper troposphere and the stratosphere (roughly, between six and 31 miles above the Earth’s surface).

Where will a polar vortex hit?

In the Northern Hemisphere, the vortexes move in a counterclockwise direction. Typically, they dip down over Canada, but according to NBC News, polar vortexes can move into the contiguous U.S. due to warm weather over Greenland or Alaska—which forces denser cold air south—or other weather patterns.

Polar vortexes aren't rare—in fact, arctic winds do sometimes dip down into the eastern U.S.—but sometimes the sheer size of the area affected is much greater than normal.

How cold is a polar vortex?

So cold that frozen sharks have been known to wash up on Cape Cod beaches. So cold that animal keepers at the Calgary Zoo in Alberta, Canada once decided to bring its group of king penguins indoors for warmth (the species lives on islands north of Antarctica and the birds aren't used to extreme cold.) Even parts of Alabama and other regions in the Deep South have seen single-digit temperatures and wind chills below zero.

But thankfully, this type of arctic freeze doesn't stick around forever: Temperatures will gradually warm up.

In What Field Was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. a Doctor?

Express Newspapers/Getty Images
Express Newspapers/Getty Images

Martin Luther King, Jr. earned a doctorate in systematic theology from Boston University in 1955. He’d previously earned a Bachelor of Arts from Morehouse College and a Bachelor of Divinity from Crozer Theological Seminary. His dissertation, “A Comparison of the Conception of God in the Thinking of Paul Tillich and Henry Nelson Wieman,” examined the two religious philosophers’ views of God in comparison to each other, and to King’s own concept of a "knowable and personal" God.

Some three decades after he earned his doctorate, in 1989, archivists working with The Martin Luther King Papers Project discovered that King’s dissertation suffered from what they called a “problematic use of sources.” King, they learned, had taken a large amount of material verbatim from other scholars and sources and used it in his work without full or proper attribution, and sometimes no attribution at all.

In 1991, a Boston University investigatory committee concluded that King had indeed plagiarized parts of his dissertation, but found that it was “impractical to reach, on the available evidence, any conclusions about Dr. King's reasons for failing to attribute some, but not all, of his sources.” That is, it could have been anything from malicious intent to simple forgetfulness—no one can determine for sure today. They did not recommend a posthumous revocation of his degree, but instead suggested that a letter be attached to the dissertation in the university library noting the passages lacked quotations and citations.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

This article was originally published in 2013.

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